DAVAO City is on the verge of turning into a bustling metropolis and with the influx of foreign and local business investors, the numbers are on its side. More than 200 of the country’s top companies operate in the city.

But if it doesn’t watch out, all its current efforts may be brought into oblivion. There are already warnings written on the wall. All it has to do is to take heed of them.

For instance, if nothing is done soon, the city proper may be inundated. Thanks to climate change, it may happen too soon.

In 2007, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that sea levels might rise between 18 centimeters and 59 centimeters in the coming century. Fifteen of the 16 regions of the Philippines are vulnerable to sea level rise.

In Mindanao, a six-meter sea level rise Davao Gulf could submerge the coastal areas of Davao City and neighboring areas.

That was what City Councilor Leonardo Avila III said a few years back in a seminar on climate change.

Avila said that Agdao district, Panacan, Sta. Ana wharf, part of Lanang, Bajada and Matina areas, the whole downtown area, including the City Hall, will be completely under water.

“These areas will virtually be part of the Davao Gulf,” he pointed out.

As a result, 40% of the city’s total population will be forced to evacuate to higher areas like the districts of Buhangin, Catalunan Grande, Calinan, Mintal and Paquibato. Since the downtown area is already inundated, businesses have also to be relocated to higher areas.

According to Avila, the critical year for the sea level rise would be by 2050. As such, he urged that the present generation should do something now to mitigate the impending danger. He also suggested that all government projects and programs should be constructed above the 12-meter safety margin.

Every time there’s rain, expect floods in some parts of Davao.

Flooding, however, is only part of the problem. Former Press Secretary Jesus G. Dureza believes that the constant flooding happening in the city is due to sea level rise.

“My calculation is that (the sea level) has risen by one foot over a period of 20 years,” he wrote in his column, “Advocacy Mindanao.” “Hence, rain waters and floods no longer easily flow or empty out into the sea. They are clogged in the waterways and spill out into the riverbanks.”

Dureza said that when flood waters rush down during high tide, they get stuck, at times and worse, a “backflow” of seawater during high tide. When seawaters rise high, it flows back inland through rivers. Hence, low-lying areas or subdivisions or residential areas around or near riverbanks are in trouble.”

Another concern that Dabawenyos should take heed of is the dwindling fish catch. Sooner than later, there may be no more fish to catch in the waters of Davao Gulf. The warning comes from Jose Villanueva, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Division chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Davao Gulf, with an area of 308,000 hectares, is Southern Mindanao’s fishing ground. In fact, it is the 10th major fishing ground in the country. As such, “Davao Gulf is a critical resource supporting the economies of six coastal cities and 18 coastal municipalities,” says the Davao Gulf Management Council (DGMC), composed of all the local government units surrounding the gulf.

In his study, “Assessment of the pelagic fisheries in Davao Gulf,” Villanueva found that 45 to 50 percent of the total fish caught daily by most of the fishermen in the gulf are juvenile -- too young, not marketable and, therefore, wasted.

“If this will continue, there will come a time that we can no longer catch fish here,” he warned.

The 10-year study showed that illegal fishing led to a decline in fish catch among fishermen in the gulf. In Davao del Norte, the volume of catch fell by at least 79.52 percent. In Davao City, catch fell from 12 kilograms per fisherman per day in 2000 to just 2 kilograms per fisherman per day in 2010.

Regional Director Dr. Anthony Sales of the Department of Science and Technology (Dost) said the dwindling fish numbers can also be attributed to destruction of coral reefs and other fish habitats.

“A dive into the depths of Samal reef gardens will reveal colorful underwater vistas with its treasures of tropical marine life,” says Carlos R. Munda, Jr., a dive instructor and underwater photographer based in Davao City. “Unfortunately, some of those colorful coral are not in good shape.”

A survey conducted by the Regional Fishermen’s Training Center in Panabo, Davao del Norte some years back at the Davao Gulf showed that most of the shallow or inshore coral reefs “were totally damaged because they are exposed to greater pressure.”

Among those pressures are dynamite fishing, siltation, pollution and coral reefs gathering. “Dynamite fishing does not only destroy the coral reefs but also kill the juvenile fish,” said Avila. “Without the juvenile fish, how can the open seas be replenished?”

The conversion of mangrove areas to recreational resorts has likewise affected the fish catch in Davao Gulf. “Fish use the spaces under the mass of prop roots of mangrove trees as ‘delivery rooms,’ and the offspring of many marine species spend their growing period in the mangrove swamps before moving on to the open sea,” explains Dr. Rafael Guerrero III, a fishery expert and national scientist.

Then, there’s the issue of water. A managing editor of one of the local dailies once posted in his Facebook: “I was late for my work today. I didn’t take a bath until 8 am since there was no water.”

A couple of years back, a study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency showed Davao City as one of the nine major cities in the country listed as “water-critical areas.” The other eight cities are Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Baguio, Angeles, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, and Zamboanga.

Now, the inconvenient truth about water is out; Davao City is experiencing water crisis. “We have a water crisis in the city not only in the second district but also in the first district,” said Second District City Councilor Danilo C. Dayanghirang, who is the chairperson of the Council Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

Is someone listening to all these woes? Something must be done now before it’s too late!